St Luke's Gas Street

The world’s oldest surviving gas retort house is brought back into use as a thriving church

Client
The Church of England, Birmingham
Location
Birmingham
Year Completed
Phase 1 – 2016

Phase 2 – 2017

Phase 3 – ongoing

RIBA Work Stage
0-6
Role
  • Project Lead
  • Architect
  • Conservation Architect
  • Contract Administrator
Awards & Mentions
  • Birmingham Civic Society 2016 Renaissance Award | Shortlisted
  • Church Building & Heritage Review | ‘St Luke’s Gas Street’ June 2016
The world’s oldest surviving gas retort house had lain empty for over 25 years. Since 2015, we have been helping St Luke’s Gas Street Church to bring light to this incredible building.

 

The Gas Retort House was built in 1822 to produce coal gas, and light the local street lamps and factories. In the latter half of the 20th century, the building was left to fall into disrepair but was ‘rediscovered’ in 1993 by Birmingham City Council. The derelict building was awarded Grade II* listed status, and restored in 2000 to improve viability for future development. The building sat empty for another 15 years until the Church of England purchased the site, to realise their vision for a new resourcing church as the ‘light of the city’.

Our brief was to maintain and enhance the main spaces for worship, and to insert facilities essential for a well-functioning church. The spaces have been kept largely unaltered. Building services, plant and toilet facilities have been installed within freestanding ‘pods’; the inserted elements clearly distinguishable from the original brickwork with contrasting birch plywood cladding. The most significant part of the building, the L-shaped Retort House, had sat in the dark for numerous years as its open arches, originally used as ventilation for its machinery, had been boarded up. Daylight now floods into the space again through large arched glazing.

What has been completed so far is just the first two phases in a multi-phase redevelopment of the site. The second phase involved expanding the worship area into the next vacant section of the building complex, and restoring the beautiful timber trusses of the Coal House. The phased nature of the project means that we have been with the Gas Street Church team every step of the way. It’s been so rewarding watching them settle into their new church and make it their own. The building will continue to evolve with the church’s community, and continue to bring light to previously dark places.

 

Learn more about the church at www.gasstreet.org.  You can also read about the Phase 1 launch here.

“It’s absolutely amazing to see a vision come to life.”

Dr Nick Harding OBE

“I can’t say just how awesome it was to be here. I’ve been following the journey right from the beginning and just to see the people worshipping here and the building transformed and to see the potential and excitement is beyond brilliant! It’s been a real privilege and I found it hard to keep the tears back throughout the whole service.”

The Revd Rhiannon King Director of Mission for the Church of England – Birmingham
Images copyright of APEC Architects and Philip King / Church of England Birmingham.